It's been an unusual week in Lion's Teeth HQ to be sure with some hopes deferred, some unexpected disappointment revealed, and a lady named Irma throwing a heavy dose of chaos into everything around the city.
Pride Draw with Reign
The Orlando Pride played a home match on Thursday against Seattle. It was a match that was recheduled with the impending approach of Hurricane Irma over the weekend. The Pride could have clinched a playoff spot in the match with an outright win, but a loss would have all but eliminated Seattle from any chance of making the post season. Seattle played with their characteristic physical style, smothering Marta to try to cut off her passing lanes and limiting the five time FIFA Player of the Year to only a single shot all night. The Reign also picked up three yellow cards for hard fouls against the Pride, and several of the more prominent players whined and cried over every call and took every opportunity to waste time during the match.
The match reached the full 90 minutes without any scores, but in the 4+ minutes of stoppage time all the fireworks happened. In the 92nd minute Alex Morgan put a well-aimed wide-angle shot from the left side toward the far side netting. The ball passed just beyond the reach of Seattle goalkeeper Lydia Williams and found the far side netting. But then less than a minute later Seattle's Jessica Fishlock got her head on the ball in the six-yard box and managed to loop it over the outstretched arms of a diving Ashlyn Harris to find the back of the Pride goal and equalized the match.
I credit Seattle with playing very hard to try to save their playoff chances, but there was a tension in the Orlando Pride players that I haven't seen in well over a month. Perhaps there were some distracted thoughts turned toward the coming hurricane--which would be understandable. Perhaps there was tension from being so close to securing the playoffs that they just didn't play with their normal relaxed confidence. And perhaps it was a bit of both and/or maybe some other factors. Whatever the reason, they just were a bit off on the night, and the performance suffered for it. The Pride owned almost all the match stats: leading in shots (20 to 10), shots on goal (5 to 3), corners (13 to 8), crosses (28 to 21), passes and passing accuracy (376 / 77.4% to 358 / 71.8%), possession (51.4% to 48.6%), and clearances (32 to 17). In the deep stats, Seattle did take two of the three categories, winning the battle of Duels (38 to 33) and Tackles (9 to 8). Even with all the other stats piled up against them this was enough to tip the balance of the match back to a draw, which is why I always think that those "heart and hustle" stats of Duels, Tackles, and Clearances are so telling in terms of which team will actually win a game.
The Pride have two more matches left, and if I read the standings correctly a win in either one will guarantee the playoffs, while draws or losses won't outright knock them out depending on what happens with the teams below them on the table. But there will be time enough to worry about that after Irma.
Will Johnson Suspended
The unexpected and sad news around the club this week was the arrest of Will Johnson in connection with domestic violence charges. I am sad for the player's wife and family, and I am genuinely sad for the player himself that he responded with physical force to whatever had transpired previously. My sincere hope is that all the parties involved will receive the counseling and support that they need in this very difficult time. I fully support the decision of the league to suspend any player accused of such conduct, and I hope that whatever decision is ultimately rendered is one that everyone involved considers just and fair. Beyond that, since I know no more of the player or his family than what has been reported in the media I don't feel like I have any place to offer opinions or render judgement.
Just as a PSA, please follow the instructions of authroities in your area. If you have been told to evacuate, I hope you will get out of the area or go to a designated shelter. If you don't want to be alone, I advise going to a shelter or staying with a friend or family member. And if you just feel restless and helpless to do anything to stop the storm, then I would offer a suggestion--relocate to a shelter and offer to help the staff and volunteers there to do what needs doing. There will be plenty of scared and panicked people at shelters, and if you can offer a smile and some friendly words and perhaps a conversation about their favorite local soccer team it may just ease their minds and make enduring the storm more bearable for those people. My old house may suffer damage but that can be replaced. My friends and my family members cannot be replaced, and neither can yours. Remember what's important and do the best you can to be sure those you care about are safe.
DC United vs. OCSC
I'm not sure I'll be able to see this match tonight due to the storm. I am on the volunteer list with the state so I will probably be helping out at one of the local shelters and I don't know if I'll have time to watch the game when it airs. And I'm not really very optimistic about the team's chances. DCU seems to be on a winning streak of late, and the Will Johnson news can't help the morale or focus of the team, not to mention being distracted by thoughts of family or friends left behind while they are on the road. It doesn't even seem worthwhile to predict a score for this one.